By Paula Wethington

Miss America fans may remember that Kaye Lani Rafko of Monroe, Mich., inspired the platform concept when she gave her speaking engagements as Miss America 1988.

What the national fans may not realize is how much Kaye Lani’s example is reflective of our community’s personality and what is expected out of the Miss Monroe County contestants today.

I happen to be a social page reporter at The Monroe Evening News, so I see a lot of announcements and photos about what the local pageant royalty and students are doing for their community service efforts. I also notice what civic projects the community seems to rally around, and what topics tend to make the rounds on the local speaking circuit.

With the perspective of what topics I think would “play well” to a civic-minded audience, here are my picks for the the top six best platforms in the Miss America Class of 2012.

Why six? Because I narrowed it down to the ones I liked the best. And since this is my list, I can include however many I want : )

  • Miss Delaware Maria Cahill: “Project 16-26 – Drive Safe, Drive Smart.” She’s not the only one with this message, but I like her slogan. Distracted driving is a timely message for people in the Miss Teen and Miss age bracket. According to the Miss America program, Maria chose that platform after a friend died in an accident that involved texting while driving, and her sister also was involved in a car accident.
  • Miss District of Columbia Ashley Boalch: “Making Cents – the Next Generation of Business Owners.” Entrepreneurship among youth is a non-traditional pageant platform, but that’s why I like it. This message will give her the opportunity to speak to people who normally are not in the pageant fan demographic. Reason: they may be interested in an educated young woman’s perspective on this topic.
  • Miss Idaho Genevieve Nutting: “Building the 3C’s through Girl Scouts – Courage, Character and Confidence.” I admit I have partiality on this one – Genevieve is a Girl Scout Gold Award winner, as was my daughter who is her age. But a tip of the hat goes to Genevieve because this is the perfect year to pick Girl Scouts as a platform – the organization is celebrating 100 years this year!
  • Miss Michigan Elizabeth Wertenberger: “Continue to Dream – Giving Hope to Children With Chronic Illnesses.” Yes, Elizabeth is the homegirl for our newspaper’s coverage. But Elizabeth made a gutsy move to change her platform statement about the time she won Miss Michigan. Her previous platform focused on volunteerism between youth and senior citizens. Both concepts fit what she was doing in our community and across Michigan, but this one describes her better. Do note that Miss Michigan is a finalist for the Quality of Life community service award.
  • Miss Ohio Ellen Bryan: “When Thunder Roars, Go Indoors – Promoting Lightning Awareness.” While I like Miss Oregon Caroline McGowan‘s platform on American Red Cross and overall disaster preparedness, lightning danger is a theme that is typically overlooked in discussions that usually focus on hurricanes, tornadoes and floods. It also relates to a personal story. According to the Miss America program, Ellen’s sister Christina was seriously injured because of a lightning strike. Miss Ohio also is a finalist for the Quality of Life community service award.
  • Miss Washington Brittney Henry: “Promoting Higher Education for Low-Income Families.” Where did that topic come from? Brittney grew up in a poverty-stricken family, but realized a college education was her step into the future. I was very impressed with her story when I learned of it.

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